EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — First, it was COVID. Now, it’s the Caldor Fire impacting local rafting businesses

Agreements between utility companies and the federal government keep water flowing in the middle and south fork of the American River.

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“They guarantee a certain amount of flow and also to keep water in the river and keep the fish alive and to keep flora and the fauna all healthy,” said Nate Rangel of Raft California.

But it’s the Caldor Fire that left the owner of Raft California high and dry right before Labor Day.

“There were days we were looking at AQI indexes of 3-4-500 and that’s not really fun or healthy,” Rangel said.

Rangel says business dipped 25 percent, and what’s happened to whitewater rafting companies has trickled down to area businesses.

“It’s a struggle to keep enough staff to keep the guests happy and not overstaff because we are losing money,” said Whitewater Pizza Company General Manager Paige Holden.

Holden says three bands canceled three weeks in a row because of poor air quality.

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“We lost our last month of solid business to get us through the winter season,” Holden said.

And neighboring Take A Bite Deli lost $500-$600 a day due to Caldor closures and cancellations.

“We are usually packed and cars out in the street and we have people out the door from the gas station, and now there is like nobody here,” Said Darian Ranking of Take A Bite Deli.

Rangel says the Caldor Fire coupled with COVID and the delta variant caused a chaotic year.

“I think it’s the new norm,” he said.

That’s forcing many outdoor recreation companies to find new ways to stay afloat.

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“I have been doing this for 40 years, and the challenges we have on a daily basis—we are up to them. But it does make the job and the service we offer. You have to be a little more creative with how you do it,” Rangel said.